I think that's a false dichotomy

Peter Lebbing peter at digitalbrains.com
Sun Sep 4 18:32:28 CEST 2016

On 04/09/16 16:35, Robert J. Hansen wrote:
> Yes, it would be a mistake for policy to be determined by those who've been
> down in the mud with this crap.  It would be deeply antidemocratic, in fact.
> This decision belongs to the people, not to an extremely small subset of the
> people with a (perhaps-understandably) skewed worldview.

We (at least I) live in a representative democracy. All these decisions *are*
taken by an extremely small subset of the people (i.e., politicians). It is just
hoped that they do this in a way that is representative of what the society as a
whole wants; yet again without the tiranny of the majority. Reality is a *lot*
more complicated than "the decision belongs to the people".

> But that doesn't mean policy shouldn't be *informed* by our experiences.

Very true. But those experiences should be viewed in a proper light.

Over here, police is knowingly ignoring privacy laws because it "is so
effective". That's what I mean when I say this shouldn't be left to the people
enforcing the law and doing the detective work.

(What I'm specifically referring to here: Automatic traffic cameras record all
licence plates that pass the camera. The purpose is to monitor for "flagged"
licence plates and report when one of those passes the camera. However, all
recognized licence plates are stored in a database for I believe several months.
That way, you can retroactively consult whether somebody passed that camera.
This storage is not lawful, but police insist on doing it).

> True and false.  It's not necessarily a zero-sum game.

I didn't say it was a zero-sum game. I merely asserted that they can't both be
maximized. Sometimes they can both be increased, but the amount of liberty I
desire for this society definitely does cost you in safety.

People could get abducted. Suppose you can at all times see where everyone is,
through technological means (GPS+GSM tracking), and you also have cameras
viewing all streets in every city and a warning system detecting suspicious
movement on the cameras. It would be very, very, very difficult to abduct
someone in a city by dragging them into a car and disappear from the radar. Yet
I fervently hope this will not become reality. I'd rather run the risk of being
abducted. I'd also grudgingly rather have children run this risk. You can
actually buy GPS-trackers for your children. I don't have any children myself,
but I would maybe use this until the child is, let's say, five years old and
then stop using the device. At some point a child deserves its privacy, and I
think parents shouldn't want to track their child in this way. You still want to
know at all times where your child *is* until they are quite a lot older. I'm
convinced of that. But not by tagging them with GPS. Just in the same way we've
done it all this time before GPS and mobile telephony existed.

> I personally think we do ourselves a disservice when we think of it as a 
> zero-sum game.  I think we should be working as hard as we can to enhance
> both simultaneously.

I think it should not be viewed as a zero-sum game, but I do believe some
safety, and some forms of safety, needs to be lost in order to have liberty
increase. Or things left as they are for liberty, even though it costs us some

If you can find a way to increase both, that's great. But sometimes one or the
other needs to prevail. Some forms of liberty are not worth the risk, and some
forms of safety are stifling.

Life is risky. Life is also unfair. Not all of this is fixable. We should strive
to do so, but not at any cost.


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